It’s all been building to this. Mr. Oz stands revealed as Zor-El, Superman’s father thought dead years ago when the planet Krypton exploded. He’s been manipulating events and people in his son’s life after he was somehow plucked from the brink of death. The two square off in an epic Kryptonian throwdown that shakes the Man of Steel to his very core.
The entire idea of bringing back Zor-El is nothing short of amazing. He was always a character that is often referenced, but always off limits, like Bucky Barnes and Uncle Ben. Of course, one of those has become a major character again. Anyway, this presents such a crisis of consciousness for Superman. It would have been more complicated had his adopted parents still been alive, however it still gives him pause. He left Krypton as an infant so he never really knew his birth father, just his teachings and what he left behind. As such, Zor-El has always been held in this high regard, but I’m sure he had faults like any other person. Putting him in the role of the villain makes things crazy interesting.
Action Comics #991 puts all of Oz’s cards on the table. Everything he’s been doing in the shadows since DC Rebirth began is pulled into the light and revealed to Superman. In his own twisted way, he’s been working to protect his son, albeit through some strange means. There are so many references to previous issues of this series as these bread crumbs have been dropped for months. It’s sure to satisfy long-time readers. Writer Dan Jurgens has done an incredible job mapping this all out.
Superman’s reaction to all of this is shock. He literally walks from room to room to see where Mxyzptlk was imprisoned and even sees Doomsday. These are players that Oz took off the board to help keep Superman safe. The shot of Mxy’s room is heartbreaking. The poor guy was convinced that Superman would save him and wrote all over the walls about how the Man of Steel would swoop in to release him. They look like the scribblings of a madman.
The battle between the two Kryptonions is massive. Each punch reverberates with such power that they had to flee to a less populated area. Artist Viktor Bogdanovic gives the fight scenes real weight. This is a Superman action sequence and it’s worthy of the name. Walls are shattered. The ground is shaken. There is some expert-level fight choreography here.
This is balanced by some close emotional moments, particularly when Superman starts to get through to Zor-El, pointing out the flaws in his logic. Zor-El’s realization of what he’s done hits like a punch to the gut. It all comes together for him as he figures out just how far he’s gone. This builds to an incredible sequence where the barriers between the two men are broken down and they can share an instant of happiness.
“The Oz Effect” arc ends somewhat abruptly. I hoped to see more of this play out, although I’m sure more will be coming soon in Doomsday Clock. The presence of Zor-El, especially one that’s as twisted as Mr. Oz, creates so many amazing story possibilities for the Superman mythos, so I’m hopeful that more will come of it.
Action Comics #991 ends in a re-affirming way for Superman. He was given reason to doubt everything he stands for by the last person he would ever think capable of doing so. Despite all of this, he still raises his head high and takes off into the air to help and protect the people of the world, regardless of what is troubling them. It’s moments like these that make the character who he is and show why he’s stood the test of time. He represents hope when there is none. He’s a light in the darkness. He’s Superman.